So Saturday was a very hard day. First we had to get up early to pack up our stuff and solve the puzzle of how to fit all of our luggage (mostly mine) in the car. We then drove to Castleisland for lunch. My family got to experience the amazingness that is bacon and cabbage as well as a bunch of fresh-baked bread. We all drew out the meal as long as possible, especially Terence. He told lots of stories and pulled out lots of pictures, but eventually we had to say goodbye. Everyone was a little teary eyed as they handed me some last gifts and we hugged many many times. I exchanged email addresses with Noula and Eileen and then we had to leave before Mom or I totally broke down. We’ve all reminded ourselves many times that it isn’t goodbye just see you later.
We still managed to get to Tarbert to catch the ferry, but just missed the one at half 2. That just gave us an excuse to head down to a pub where we met the very friendly owner and used up my change to buy Club Orange. We took the ferry at half 3 and it was the perfect day for it - sunny and warm. Once on the other side we took off for the Cliffs of Moher.
I had already seen the cliffs, but watching my family react to them was an experience in itself. The day was wonderful, so we ended up staying for quite a bit. It was nearly 6:15 when we left! We drove on to Galway and after some confusion found our apartment and got all settled in.
Today we spent the day wandering around Galway city. We had another beautiful today so the city was bustling with people enjoying the sun. We wandered down Quay Street and through a lovely street market and many musicians. After some lunch we visited the Protestant Cathedral that used to be Catholic, but was taken over by the Protestants from England. It had been there since the 13th century! We also stopped into a pub to watch the Kerry v. Cork Gaelic football game. Sadly, Kerry lost, but it was still fun to introduce by family to one of my favourite sports to watch.
After looking around NUI Galway, which is a beautiful campus, we wandered back to our apartment where we are all resting our feet now.
Less Than a Week!
This holiday has been flying by! Yesterday we went into Killarney for the day. We took a really nice tour of Ross castle. Did anyone else know about trip stairs? Apparently in medieval castles they made staircases with steps of various widths and heights so that anyone running up them would eventually trip. We also went to Muckross house and climbed through the rock tunnel which was very amusing. Lastly we stopped at Torc waterfall to sate Mom’s unending appetite for them. We then headed into Killarney where us girls went shopping and the boys got drinks.
We were going to go out for dinner, but by 7 I had a pounding headache. It turns out I might be just a little addicted to caffeine… AKA when I don’t have a cup of tea or two I get a massive headache. I don’t think I’ll give it up, it’s just too painful.
Today we had a very chill day. Kristen wasn’t feeling great so the rest of us just went into Castleisland. I showed them my school and introduced them to my principal before we wandered around town for a bit. We also went to see the castle which I’d only seen from a distance.
Before dinner we took a short drive and stopped at a nice bar for some drinks and ocean air. Then for dinner we had some awesome seafood! Dad, Kristen and I slurped oysters then we all had muscles and salmon. Now we’re back at a pub for a nightcap (and some wifi.)
Family has arrived!
My Minnesota family has arrived safe and sound after a VERY interesting drive from Shannon. They were welcomed with bear hugs and a big Irish fry. After I finished packing we piled almost everything into the car and got on our way to Castlegregory. The street signs there are a little confusing, so we had to get some help from the locals to find our way. Our house is very cosy, my mom did a good job with her research. We got some Chinese food and then they crashed on me.
On Sunday we all slept late and then had a very chill morning before my Irish family arrived for dinner. Everyone except Terry was able to come (he had a tour to do.) It was a lovely evening - the boys had a great time playing with their new toys and we all laughed and chatted. It felt so natural to have my two families together. Later we went down to the beach with the boys. Within two minutes everyone’s shoes were off and we were playing in the waves. Harry was gas, he would run into the waves, scream and run right back out! I was sad to say goodbye to everyone.
Today we spent the day driving around Dingle. We went via the Conor pass which was gorgeous on a sunny day. We stopped in Dingle town for a while to look around and eat our picnic lunch. Then we took off on the Slea Head route to travel along the coast. We had beautiful views of the ocean and we also stopped off at an ancient ring fort. Our biggest laugh of the day was trying to go to a castle. The first one required we go four wheeling in our ford station wagon. We were all cracking up as we bumped up and down. On our way to the second castle our car got attacked by some crazy border collies. I’ve heard of dogs chasing cars, but not throwing themselves against them. Another huge laugh! The third one we did get a better view, even if it was on private property. Right now we’re finishing our dinner of awesome seafood in Inch before heading home. We’ve all thoroughly enjoyed our day and had lots of good belly laughs.
I’ll update as much as possible, but our house doesn’t have wifi. I can’t believe it’s only one more week!
It is officially my last night, which means I have officially finished my last day as a study abroad student in Ireland. Please excuse me while I go have a brief panic attack. It seems like just yesterday I was arriving at Shannon and agreeing to go in a car with a strange man (Terry did know my name after all.) I think I can safely say these have been the 5 most amazing months of my life. I’ve made awesome friends, had great craic and I will have so many memories that will last forever. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process as well.
In a lot of ways going back is going to be harder than leaving. When I left the US I knew for sure that I would be returning on 12th June 2012. But, when I board the plane at Shannon Tuesday week I won’t know when exactly I will be coming back. I can plan all I want, but nobody has any idea where we will be in a year. All I can hope is that one day I will get to come back and visit all the amazing people who I have to leave behind.
To commemorate these last months I have come up with a list:
Top Ten Things I Love/Will Miss
1. My host family - they have made me laugh, we’ve had philosophical conversations, I’ve played with some of the cutest kids ever, and I will miss them all dearly. I couldn’t have asked for a better family.
2. My friends - After we all got over our initial shyness I have made some really amazing friends. We crammed for tests together, cracked up during lunch and spent many weekends in Killarney. I wish them the best of luck next year, I’ll have to come visit after their Leaving Cert.
3. My tiny town - I love living in small town where everyone will smile at you, your chemist recognises you and there is a friendly atmosphere. I think I may find the city a little overwhelming after my cosy, quiet town.
4. The mountains - I know it sounds odd, but I will miss the sight of green hills ad towering mountains that are always in the distance no matter where you look. There’s something comforting about it.
5. My school - When I first heard I was attending an all girls catholic school I just had to laugh. But, I will definitely miss the close-knit 5th year where everyone knew everyone and we all helped each other out. Not having any stairs to climb was a big bonus too.
6. The food - Oh gosh, where to start. Bacon and cabbage, honeycomb ice cream, soda bread with tons of butter, cadbury chocolate. I may go through Irish food withdrawal.
7. Tea - So much to say about tea. The fact that we had an electric kettle (just like everyone does) that heated water super quickly for my 5 cups or so a day. Nothing can compare to a cup of tea and a biscuit for relaxation in just a few minutes.
8. The accent - After five months I’ve finally puzzled out some of the various accents in Ireland. (A clue to all other clueless foreigners, pretty much every county has a different accent.) Things just sound nicer overall when they’re said in an Irish accent.
9. The peat fires - It is what I looked forward to every night, a blazing fire that took the chill out of my bones and helped put me to sleep for the night.
10. Life here - The thing I will mist the most is the thing that combines everything I mentioned above. The friendly people, the hilarious slang, the cosy atmosphere. Life moved just a little bit slower and it was just a little bit easier, I can hardly look forward to leaving that behind.
Last Day of School
I had my last day of school today, and what is usually a time to jump for joy was a day when I mostly felt like crying. Going through all of my classes was so sad because each time I could only think “this is my last Spanish class” or “this is my last breaktime.” That’s not to say we didn’t have some craic as well. During Geography a bunch of 5th years were helping out with incoming 1st year orientation. The few of us left went to help our Geography teacher set up the xbox kinect in the hall. Once we had the dance program up and running we had to at least make sure it was working. Seeing a bunch of girls in matching uniforms dancing in a line was hilarious to say the least. In the afternoon we convinced most of our teachers to let us watch a movie instead of do actual work. We passed around our homework diaries to sign and I passed around a Kerry flag to get everyone’s signatures.
When the final bell rang, I almost started crying. I said goodbye to all my friends, hopefully they’ll be able to come visit me in Castlegregory. I also went to talk to Mr. Kelliher to get my final grades. He was very sweet and gave me a card as well as a lovely necklace with the Presentation cross on it.
I was so lucky with my school. When I first heard I was going to an all-girls school I was a little aprehensive. But, it turned out to be great. I made amazing friends and got to try all sorts of new things. Everyone was lovely and welcoming. I will miss them all so much!
I can hardly believe it, I only have two days left. Even when I repeat it over and over it still hasn’t sunk in. Even when I pulled out my suitcase and started taking clothes out of my closet. Even when I talk to my family about when their flight is landing on Saturday. SATURDAY! Sometimes I think it won’t feel real until we land in Minnesota and Ireland is actually my past. I’ve spent so much time thinking about this experience as the future and then I was living it as the present. Somehow putting it in the past is incomprehensible.
In all honesty I’m not ready to go home. That’s not to say I’m not super excited to see all my family and friends. But, I am just not ready to leave this all behind. I’ve made such good, sweet friends here. We went out for dinner this evening and they brought me a cake and a beautiful necklace with a three-leaf clover charm. It doesn’t seem fair that I’ve only gotten to know them and now I have to leave. We had such a laugh talking about my first days. It turns out they were just as nervous about talking to me as I was about talking to them. Now, we crack up during lunch until we choke on our food and discuss everything under the sun. And then there’s the wonderful host family I have to leave behind. That’s a whole separate post! They’ve been welcoming, and funny and the best I could’ve asked for.
But, time wont stop for me. Tomorrow I’ll go to my last day of school. On Friday I will pack up the last five months in my suitcase and on Saturday I have to leave it all behind. It will be harder to leave here not knowing when I can come back. But, trust me Ireland hasn’t seen the last of Emily Syverud.
So Cappanlea was totally amazing. I did have to get up early on Friday, but it was definitely worth it. We got on a bus at 8:30 and drove for about an hour to get to Cappanlea. Its an outdoor education centre where groups can go for a day, or do an overnight stay for as long as a week. In the morning the group I was in (11 other girls and myself) got some wellies, harnesses, and helmets and hiked off to go rock climbing! The rock we climbed was an actual cliff, not a fake one. I think its the first time I’d ever done non-artificial rock climbing. We took a few pictures, got some safety instructions and then we were off. I volunteered to do the abseiling first. ( just googled that and found out its called rappelling in American English.) I got hooked onto a safety rope and then got attached to another rope that I held onto to decided how fast or slow I wanted to abseil down the cliff face. The scariest part was when I first had to lean backwards over the edge to get the stance right. From there it was great craic! I ended up doing it three times (I also figured out how to do super fun spiderman jumps as I was going down.) We also had an opportunity to climb up the rock, I did that twice. It was grand as well, but abseiling was definitely my favourite.
After a lunch break we went to collect some new gear. This time we got wetsuits, life jackets, windbreakers and a different kind of helmet. We were going kyaking! It was another short hike, followed by some more safety instructions and then we were in the water. I think I was the only girl in my group who had ever kyaked before. It was a small lake, but it was still lots of fun. We played tag, with lion and cow noises, so we could tell who was a cow (chaser) and who was a lion (chasee). Because everyone knows cows chase lions. We also played kind of kayak water polo, we had to connect three passes with a small ball and then hit one of our instructors kayaks. I got a lot of good tips about how to improve my kayaking (and splashing techniques). Afterwards we went for a quick swim before heading back to the centre to shower and change. The day was over way too quickly, I had an awesome time.
As I was walking back from the bus I was intercepted by Terry. I hopped in the van and we headed to Garvey’s to pick up some food for a barbecue. After I had changed and napped we headed over to his house. The evening was absolutely perfect, warm with a slight breeze and a sun that didn’t set until past 9:30. The food was delicious and Lorraine and Laurent are in from Cork to spend the weekend in Dingle.
Today I tried to study, but I got distracted by the good weather, so I went and bought an ice cream and walked by the river instead. This evening I went to my friend Norah’s birthday party at the Chinese place in town. When I got home I watched the Eurovision final. I found it kind of cheesy and campy, but also hilarious. It was hosted in Azerbaijan this year and to say the MC’s English sounded rehearsed is a generous understatement. Still, it was fun to watch although Ireland didn’t manage to win (Sweden snagged it.)
Phew so much to update on. Good thing I’m a veritable ball of energy right now thanks to all my conflicting emotions! Anyways Saturday Madeline and I went to Torc waterfall for a hike. But, first we stopped of at Muckross House to find the rock tunnel John showed us awhile ago. It was even mor fun with just two of us on a gloomy day. In some parts I couldn’t see in either direction. And Madeline freaked me out by claiming every shadow was a person hiding in there. Our hike around Torc was great, although I never want to see another rock stair in my life. I swear we climbed about a thousand of them. The views were definitely worth it!
On Sunday I went for another hike. We finally got to go on the boat trip with John! We piled into boats that held an ‘Irish 12’ (aka 13 or 14). They kinda looked like extended wooden fishing boats. The trip itself was about an hour and a half and really amazing. We travelled through all of the Killarney lakes and got stunning views of the surrounding mountains. We stopped of at Lord Brandon’s cottage to have a quick lunch before starting on the hike part. Of all the hikes I’ve been on it was definitely the flattest (meaning I wasn’t nearly as sore.) It was the longest though at 13 km, we got more amazing views and stopped at a waterfall where all us students skipped stones and waded around. It was a great hike, but kind of bittersweet because it will likely be our last with John.
On Monday it was back to school, only a couple of weeks left! We found out that we made around 900 Euros with our bake sale and table quiz, which is super awesome. We’ve also got everything sorted for our school tour to Cappanlea on Friday.
It’s hard to believe its less than two weeks until my study abroad experience is over. I go from super excited and full of energy at the thought of going back to Minnesota to close to tears with a huge pit in my stomach at the thought of leaving. Not much sleeping or studying is getting done with all this emotion!